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Mariners back on winning track, beat Astros 4-1

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 19: Ben Gamel #16 of the Seattle Mariners hits a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on July 19, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Houston, TX – Not many pitchers have been able to slow down the Houston Astros this season.

James Paxton has done it repeatedly.

Paxton had another strong start against Houston and rookie Ben Gamel powered the offense with a two-run homer to give the Seattle Mariners a 4-1 victory over the Astros on Wednesday.

“Paxton was outstanding today,” manager Scott Servais said. “It’s exactly what the doctor ordered. He was on top of his game.”

Paxton (9-3) allowed six hits and one run in seven innings, after not allowing a run in his previous two starts against Houston this season. It’s the fourth straight win for Paxton, who struck out seven.

“He’s really good,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “His arm strength is at the top end of left-handed starters in the league … a lot of the story today is just about how good he was. We couldn’t quite break out and have a big inning against him.”

Wednesday’s performance improved Paxton to 2-0 with a 0.45 ERA and 20 strikeouts against the AL West-leading Astros this year.

“This was a big series for us and a big road trip, we went five out of six,” Paxton said. “That’s awesome coming out of the break so we’ve just got to keep it going here and keep ourselves in this race.”

Houston starter Charlie Morton (7-4) retired the first nine batters and the Astros led 1-0 before Jean Segura led off the fourth with a single. Gamel’s first homer since June 23 came next to put Seattle up 2-1.

Segura had two hits and Robinson Cano and Mike Zunino drove in a run apiece for the Mariners, who won for the sixth time in seven games. Edwin Diaz pitched a scoreless ninth for his 18th save.

The Astros had a chance to cut into the lead in the eighth when they had runners at first and third with one out. But Nick Vincent struck out Evan Gattis before Marc Rzepczynski fanned Carlos Beltran to end the inning.

Morton allowed six hits and four runs in 6 2/3 innings for his first loss since coming off the disabled list on July 7.

Guillermo Heredia doubled to start the sixth before Segura reached on an infield single. Then an error by first baseman Yuli Gurriel allowed Gamel to reach and load the bases with no outs.

The Mariners pushed the lead to 3-1 when Heredia scored on a groundout by Cano that left Gamel out at second. Morton was able to limit the damage when Nelson Cruz grounded into a double play to end the inning.

Zunino’s RBI double with two outs in the seventh pushed the lead to 4-1 and chased Morton.

Alex Bregman singled with no outs in the third, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt and stole third base. Houston took a 1-0 lead when he scored on a sacrifice fly by George Springer.